Environment bills address Oregon’s bottle bill, earthquake safety, more

Blue skies light up the Capitol's Gold Man and Oregon flag on Jan. 22, 2017. Oregon is the only state to display different pictures on each side of the flag, with the reverse showing an image of a beaver.
Blue skies light up the Capitol's Gold Man and Oregon flag on Jan. 22, 2017. Oregon is the only state to display different pictures on each side of the flag, with the reverse showing an image of a beaver.

Wine in cans will be included in the state’s Bottle Bill recycling program, under a bill passed during the final days of Oregon’s 2022 Legislative Session.

Beginning July 1, 2025, wine in cans will carry a 10-cent deposit and refund like other beverages.

Senate Bill 1520 also addresses low redemption rates by requiring large non-participating beverage distributors in certain parts of the state to either provide redemption services, join the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative or pay a fee to support redemption.

And it directs the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to develop signs to be posted in all groceries and markets to make redemption opportunities more understandable for consumers.

The Bottle Bill update was among a number of environmental bills considered during the 2022 short legislative session.

Here's what passed

Tank farm safety: More than 600 fuel tanks sit along the Willamette River in Portland, on unstable soil. In the event of a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake, many of those tanks would spill onto the ground, slide into the river or explode.

Senate Bill 1567 requires those fuel terminal owners to conduct seismic vulnerability assessments, and submit them to the Department of Environmental Quality by June 1, 2024. The owners then must implement seismic risk mitigation plans approved by the department.

And the bill requires the Oregon Department of Energy to develop an energy security plan by June 1, 2024.

“We’re taking critical action to prepare for disaster. It’s only a matter of time,” said Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, who carried the bill.

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Zoonotic disease prevention: Live-animal markets are banned in Oregon under House Bill 3128, in an effort to slow the spread of disease from animals to humans. Zoonotic diseases are on the rise worldwide, driven by habitat loss, climate change and wildlife exploitation.

The bill also strengthens state agency coordination, and requires the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to review and update its list of prohibited wildlife species.

"It’s so exciting to see Oregon leading efforts to prevent future public health crises by tackling wildlife exploitation head on,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wildlife trade and trafficking are fueling the rise in diseases that spread from animals to people, and they’re key drivers of the extinction crisis.”

Similar legislation was considered but not approved during the 2021 legislative session, after COVID-19 was identified in mink at an Oregon mink farm. The current bill does not apply to mink farms.

Environmental justice: Oregon’s Environmental Justice Task Force, established in 2007, is made up of volunteers from around the state

House Bill 4077 replaces the task force with a new Environmental Justice Council, with dedicated staff and funding.

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The bill directs the council to develop a mapping tool to assess environmental, health and socioeconomic disparities. The tool will layer data such as air pollution emissions, ozone levels and toxic hazards with information such as linguistic isolation and income levels.

“We owe the next generation a healthier, more sustainable and resilient Oregon,” said Joel Iboa Executive Director or Oregon Just Transition Alliance.

Illegal water use: Illegal cannabis operations are using surface and ground water without water rights, depleting supplies for legal agricultural, recreational and other uses. The problem is especially severe in Southern Oregon, according to the Oregon Water Resources Department.

House Bill 4061 prohibits water hauling to unregistered or unlicensed cannabis grow sites, prohibits providing false information to law enforcement or OWRD, and requires certain water suppliers to maintain sales records for at least 12 months, and provide the records to law enforcement or the state on request.

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Product stewardship for mattresses: Oregon will be the fourth state with a mattress stewardship program, with the passage of Senate Bill 1576.

The program will provide free collection and recycling of used mattresses throughout the state.

The bill requires the Department of Environmental Quality to certify a stewardship organization to run the program, which will be financed by a fee on mattress sales.

Reach Task Force: As proposed, Senate Bill 1518 would have allowed cities to choose to implement a building code that requires more energy efficiency standards, to help meet the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

An amendment weakened the bill, instead creating a 27-member Task Force on Resilient Efficient Buildings to identify and evaluate policies relating to building codes and building decarbonization.

The task force will recommend legislation to be considered during the 2023 Legislative session. Advocates say they’re confident more progress will be made next year.

“Widespread action is needed to make our existing and new homes and buildings ready for a clean energy future and for the climate crisis,” said Meredith Connolly, Oregon Director of Climate Solutions. “Oregon has fallen behind in innovative policies to improve homes and buildings so they’re more resilient, affordable, and healthy."

Some bills failed

Some bills that were a priority for environmental groups did not make it through, however.

Wildlife corridors: Drivers in Oregon are more likely to collide with an animal on the road than those in other West Coast states, insurer State Farm says.

The state has five wildlife crossings, compared with 30 in Washington and 50 in California.

House Bill 4130 would have allocated at least $5 million in the current biennium for structures to help wildlife safely get across roads. It also would have allowed the state to apply for federal matching funds available through President Biden’s infrastructure package.

While the bill failed, Oregon invested $7 million in wildlife crossings through the budget bill.

Carbon sequestration: In December, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality adopted its Climate Protection Program, an ambitious plan to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

At the last minute, the department dropped provisions for carbon sequestration. In response, legislators introduced Senate Bill 1534, creating the framework to eventually allow natural and working lands to be voluntarily managed for carbon sequestration.

The bill was supported by dozens of climate organizations, small farms and ranches, and water and conservation districts. But many of the state’s major agriculture and forest industry groups opposed it, saying it could lead to new regulatory requirements rather than incentives or partnerships.

Tracy Loew is a reporter at the Statesman Journal. She can be reached at tloew@statesmanjournal.com, 503-399-6779 or on Twitter at @Tracy_Loew.

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Which environmental bills passed the Oregon Legislature?